One Thing & Another

Delray Beach, FL

Notes From My Journal: An Interesting Dude Who’s Led an Interesting Life

I met Steve Ludwin maybe 10 years ago. He was down in Nicaragua, hanging out at Rancho Santana, and became friendly with Number Three Son. Eventually, we became friends.

Oscar Wilde said he picks his friends based on how good looking they are. That makes great sense if you are Oscar Wilde. I have lots of old friends, so I don’t need new ones. But when I do, I select them based on how interesting they are.

Steve is a great example. He’s a rock and roll singer, artist, actor, filmmaker, and activist who’s been injecting deadly snake venom into his arms for about 20 years. In that time, he’s had nary a cold and looks at least 15 years younger than he is.

Here’s a snippet of his latest activity… some sort of weird documentary about his life:


Today’s Word: effigy (noun)

An effigy (EF-ih-jee) is a crude representation of someone, usually used to express contempt or ridicule, often hung up or burned in public. Example from the movie An American President, spoken by “President” Andrew Shephard: “Sydney, seldom does a day go by where I am not burned in effigy.”


Fun Fact

Jaw muscles can provide 200 pounds of force.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Breaking the Spending  and Working Habit

What You Must Do Now to Retire Before You Die

Making money is habit-forming.

That’s a good thing – because it makes it easier to keep working. But it’s a bad thing, too – because it makes it harder to stop when you want to stop.

Compounding the problem, spending money is addicting too. And like most addictions, as time passes you need more juice to get the same buzz.

That’s why most people increase their spending as their income rises. Actually, the increase is usually greater. A $10,000-a-year increase in income can result in a $15,000-a-year spending habit.

This is a not a pretty pattern. As the gap between earning and spending widens, delusions set in. Like the belief that something “good” – some sort of deus ex machina financial event – is just around the corner. It could be that lottery ticket. It could be that high-tech stock. So a new addiction emerges: hunting for the amazing 10-bagger investment.

All of this works to ensure that the goal of retirement is forever out of reach. And if the addiction to working remains, that might be okay, so long as you are in charge of your income and healthy enough to keep it coming as you age.

But most don’t have that option.

If you think you might be caught up in the interwoven habits of working more and spending more, there is hope. If you start today, you can reverse this declining trajectory and be on the upward swing towards financial security in a matter of months.

The first thing you must do is own up to your addictions. Admit to yourself (and to your spouse or partner, perhaps) that you have lost control and need to mend your ways. I know how this sounds: New Age Flaky. But I do believe it’s necessary. I have the advantage of having innumerable bad habits. I’ve overcome a fair number of them and have failed with many others. The difference has always been my willingness to admit to my weakness and admit to needing help,

Step two is also about how you think and feel. But it’s less icky than step one. Step two is about realizing that you almost certainly can enjoy a satisfactory lifestyle by spending much less than you think, perhaps less than you are spending now. (I’ve written countless essays on this topic).

Step three is easy and clean. Once you understand how little you actually need, you can work out a spending plan that gives you a fulfilling lifestyle without breaking the bank.

Let’s say you are in the process of dramatically increasing your income. This year, you earn $100,000. Next year, $200,000. The year after that, $400,000. Then you continue to earn $400,000 a year every year thereafter.

By learning to live comfortably on, say, $150,000 a year – and sticking to it when you are making $300,000 and $400,000 – you would end up investing a lot of money “in yourself” every year.

Assuming that your total tax bill (including federal, state, local, and other taxes) is 35% (it shouldn’t be more than that if you know your deductions and use corporate structures wisely), the math would look something like this:

Yearly Income: $400,000

Total Taxes: $140,000

Comfortable Spending Limit: $150,000

Balance for Investing: $110,000

The trick is to maintain that spending limit.

You wouldn’t move into a $5 million house. You wouldn’t buy a $150,000 Porsche. You wouldn’t take an $80,000 vacation. You’d have a blast – a $150,000 blast – but that would be it.

If, instead, you slip into the common path of excessive consumption, you will surely have trouble retiring – even after you’ve exceeded, by far, the financial goals you had set for yourself.

To retire happily and avoid becoming addicted to working and making money, here’s what you have to do:

Step 1. Set a net-worth target. And then set income and business targets that will support it.

Step 2. Figure out exactly how you are going to be able to enjoy your life after you’ve reached your wealth-building target. Figure out just how much money you’ll need each year, and what you hope you’ll be doing to make your life happy and worthwhile.

Step 3. As you go about building your fortune, make sure that you never allow yourself to slip into a lifestyle that is more expensive than you really want. Don’t let yourself be tugged into buying a bigger house than you really need, designer labels that don’t really improve your appearance, expensive vacations that aren’t any more fun than cheaper ones, high-priced wines that don’t taste any better… and so on.

If you can do all that work now – draw it out in as much detail as possible – you won’t have to struggle with it later.

Watch This…

Is this sexist or is it true? I find it to be accurate, but perhaps men use these same words in the same way.


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